A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary – PALM / SIXTH Sunday

John 12:12-16, New Living Translation

The next day, the news that Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem swept through the city. A large crowd of Passover visitors took palm branches and went down the road to meet him. They shouted,
“Praise God!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Hail to the King of Israel!” 

Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the prophecy that said:

   “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem.
Look, your King is coming,
    riding on a donkey’s colt.”

His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about him. 

This opening to Holy Week has always made me feel a little bit queasy inside.

Such a welcome – a royal welcome. Well-deserved, but SO not understood by those who are offering it. 

They really want to see a King – a king like they were used to, a king like they prayed for, a king who would swoop in and rout out those Romans and restore the honor of Israel. And for a few brief moments, they thought they had found just the guy for the job. 

But we already know, from readings earlier on our journey, that Jesus has no intention of fulfilling any of those dreams. 


We know, from our vantage point on this side of Calvary and the empty tomb, that Jesus is indeed a king – and that he came to bring in the kingdom of God. 

But…it surely doesn’t look like any kingdom anyone has ever seen before. No, it does not. 

Just a few days away from the waving palm branches and the shouts of “Hosanna!” this same crowd of people will be shouting again. But it will sound dramatically different, it will be dramatically different. By Friday, the cheers will be jeers and Jesus’ very life will be demanded to satisfy their anger. 

Because everything in us resists the truth about Jesus. 

We all want a Super-Hero, complete with white charger, swooping in to save the day, to make life easier for us, to solve our problems and make us look good. 

What we get is an up-country carpenter on a donkey, slowly walking across the city gate near Bethany, an itinerant rabbi determined to show us what the Kingdom of God really looks like. 

Really looks like.

And it does not look like political victories. 
     It has not one thing to do with power. 
          It’s not about taking anything by force. 

Instead, it’s about dying. 
     It’s about the first becoming last. 
          It’s about the littlest, the least, the lost and the lonely. 
          It’s about reconciliation between God and humans. 
     It’s about wholeness,
          and healing,
               and learning to do the hard, hard work of love. 
     It’s about life with meaning, life with joy – despite the hardships that come our way – 
          and it’s about life with hope. 

I want to get this right. I want to get this. I want to be this. 

Do you? 


We’re almost here, Lord. We’re almost at the end of this particular Lenten road. Some days we’ve struggled to keep in step; some days we’ve wondered if this was such a good idea. And as we move through this week, I’m sure we’re going to wonder about that a lot. A lot. So as we stand on the sidelines, gently waving our own palm branches, grant us grace to see you, to walk with you, every step of this last week. Every.Single.Step. No matter what.

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  1. It’s always made me a little queasy, too. But when I was a girl in the Episcopal church, they did this day up right. The church had huge columns, and they were plastered with palms all the way up to the ceiling. I would play with my little palm cross all during the service.

  2. pastordt says

    I would like to have seen that – palms all the way to the ceiling! And I have never learned how to make a cross out of palm leaves – such a sheltered childhood!